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Is it unethical for a mental health professional (LCSW) to have outside conversations with a family member of a client?

Fresno, CA |

I'm an adult w/ PTSD. Several years ago, while briefly staying with my parents, I made an appointment with an LCSW. At this time, our family dynamic was breaking down. My parents blamed me for raising the alarm over my father's alcohol addiction. My mom found the LCSW's phone number and contacted her before my first appointment. When I met with the LCSW, I learned they spent several hours on the phone discussing mom's issues with me. When I met with the LCSW, she was cold and rude. She didn't want to discuss my PTSD; she came down hard on me for "falsely accusing" my dad of being an addict. Traumatized, I asked her if this was ethical. She said yes, my mom could call her all she wanted to give information about me. Is this true? What if it's prejudicial information?

Attorney Answers 1


This is really a question for the Board that licenses Social Workers.

As a lawyer, I can tell you this doesn't appear to be much of a malpractice case. First, your Mother contacted the LCSW, the Social Worker did not solicit information about you. Since she hadn't met you, it is unlikely that she revealled any confidential information to your Mother. A Social Worker could easily say that obtaining information on your family dynamics is part of the job.

Second, you did not indicate if the information could be proven to be true or untrue. It appears to be subjective opinions which a judge or jury would have a hard time seeing as harmful.

Third, you indicate few damages. Have you seen another mental health professional to evaluate if your response to this social worker caused you measurable harm? If not, the most you are likely to recover is the cost of that one visit.

In conclusion-"Anyone can sue anyone over anything." This is not likely to be a successful outcome for you. In other words, you picked a Social Worker that didn't meet your needs. Move on and find one you are comfortable with.

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